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Justice for hidden gems

Published:  18 January, 2007

All I passed were a few unkind but surely well-merited remarks about English wine, and I am assailed on all sides.

This magazine, to try and get a debate going, invited Frazer Thompson, MD of English Wines Group, to a head-to-head with your columnist, but after initially agreeing to this he pulled out, perhaps deciding he had no stomach for the contest.

Fair enough. I have little stomach for most English wines, though I must say I was forced to eat my words (my diet has always been exotic) at the recent Tesco tasting when I came across wine number 19. This was 2006 Three Choirs Aromatic White. What a little gem it was!

A blend of four hideously unpronounceable grapes, which, Seyval Blanc apart perhaps, all sound like Bayern Munich footballers, it was sleek, memorably aromatic, genteely fruited with a deliciously teasingly floral undertone.

I rated it 16 points out of 20 on my scale of things, which takes into account its congenial alcohol level (11%) and excellent value for money, at 5.49.

It also has the great virtue of being available at 705 branches of this colossal retailer, so it will, if there is any justice in the world, sell out by the end of the month. It certainly will do so if the weather becomes more seasonal as it is a fabulous back garden torrid weather appetite whetter.

Which brings me to one of the things one can criticise about the Tesco tasting. The majority of the 181 wines on show were terrific, but the tasting notes, in places, had me in stitches. I particularly enjoyed "this is a very attractive mouth-filling wine and is lovely as an aperitif to accompany fish and chicken".

This was written of Guigal's 2005 Cte du Rhne Blanc, a quite beautiful artefact, full of complex eddies and myriad subtleties. However, an aperitif opens a meal and is taken without food. That's what the word means, being from the Latin aperire, which means to open.

May I also bitch about the weight of Tesco's tasting book? As each wine was given both recto and verso pages the result was a hefty tome, weightier than the Penguin paperback editions of Anna Karenina and Don Quixote combined. Tolstoy and Cervantes, though, have the edge on Tesco when it comes to prose style.

Malcolm Gluck, former wine columnist of The Guardian and best-selling author of the Superplonk titles, is a freelance writer